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It’s the same old story, isn’t it? The hot “It” girl has a record or film or book or sex video to promote so she poses half naked in a national magazine. There’s the predictable hue and cry about America’s declining values and the predictable apology. But the record or film or book or sex video goes on to huge success, so the half-naked photo is quickly forgotten.
Not this time. This time, the “It” girl was 15-year-old Miley Cyrus, whose alter ego, Hannah Montana, was supposed to be different. Her “character” is the one who always plays it clean (even as she made millions for Disney).
So why did she do it?
There’s the obvious: Because all of Cyrus’s parent figures — from Disney to her agents to the celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz to Cyrus’s should-know-better superstar father — care more about the fictional Hannah than they do about the real Miley.
Indeed, if you watch the “behind the scenes” footage on the Vanity Fair Web site, you can see Miley’s dad, Billy Ray Cyrus, chatting amiably with the famous photographer Annie Leibovitz and her staff. Clearly nothing was troubling him at the time.
But after the photos were flashed all over the world, the fingers started pointing.
Disney, which has been milking the Cyrus cash cow for years, blasted Vanity Fair with a statement: “A situation was created to deliberately manipulate a 15-year-old in order to sell magazines.”
Isn’t that the pot calling the kettle exploitive?
Indeed, blaming Vanity Fair is like blaming the warden for crime. Anyone who sits for Leibovitz knows the Faustian bargain: Got a record to promote, honey? Take that top off and let’s see if we can help.
Yet many scolds are blaming Miley. But to Smartmom’s way of thinking, Cyrus is the victim in this American Kabuki.
And Smartmom knows because her 16-year-old son, Teen Spirit, just shaved his head.
No, that’s no metaphor. The other night Teen Spirit called and told Hepcat that he shaved his head.
“Not exactly shaved. But my hair is really, really short,” he said.
Smartmom nearly fainted when she saw her firstborn looking like a military recruit. In recent years, Teen Spirit has hid behind his hair like Violet in “The Incredibles.” It’s been his invisibility shield, the sheath that protects him from the world.
But that was then, this is now.
And just as America asked Miley Cyrus, “Why did you do it?!” Smartmom is wondering what could have been going through her son’s mind.
And then she realized that this seemingly self-destructive act made all the sense in the world. Both Teen Spirit and Miley Cyrus are adolescents. Both felt the need to reinvent themselves and show the world that they won’t be defined by their public personas (in Miley’s case, she’s not happy always being Hannah Montana; in Teen Spirit’s case, it was clearly time to throw off the look of the slacker dude who just doesn’t care).
Who can blame either of them for wanting to reinvent themselves? Isn’t that what being an adolescent is all about? Like Miley, Teen Spirit doesn’t want to be a character in “The Smartmom and Hepcat Show” anymore. He wants to write his own sitcom (dramedy or mini-series) and create himself.
And that’s the message of the Vanity Fair pictures: Sure, she’s partly unclothed, but you can’t see anything unchaste.
Smartmom was sorry that Miley chose the pages of Vanity Fair to do her growing up. But then again, teens in Park Slope have to become adults under the skeptical gaze of their Park Slope parents, their budinsky parents’ friends, and their neighbors (that’s like Vanity Fair, right?)
Posing semi-nude for Annie Leibovitz, shaving your head on a whim. What’s the difference? It’s all part of growing up and trying to discover who you really are.
Indeed, Cyrus has nothing to apologize about — except perhaps the half-baked apology she made this week.
“[The] photo shoot was supposed to be ‘artistic,’ and now … I feel so embarrassed,” she said.
Embarrassed? About what? She may not go to high school or live like a normal teen, but Miley Cyrus has every right to play with her inner and outer identity like every other kid.
Change your hair. Change your clothes. Change your persona. Change your mind.
It’s all part of the identity game.
Now, if you want to cast blame, look no further than Disney, Vanity Fair, Annie Leibovitz and Billy Ray...
Louise Crawford writes “Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn,” a Web site. She is also overseeing the third annual Brooklyn Blogfest on Thursday, May 8 at the Brooklyn Lyceum (Fourth Avenue between Union and President streets) at 8 pm. Call (718) 857-5842 for info.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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